Beware long-term effects of cyberbullying

Rohma Sadaqat /Dubai Filed on November 12, 2020
Because teachers and parents may not overhear or see it taking place, cyberbullying is harder to recognise.

There is a growing need to educate parents and teachers about cyberbullying and the long-term impact it can have on a child's mental and physical health, experts have said. 

Speaking at the ongoing Sharjah International Book Fair 2020, clinical psychologist Divia Ahuja, explained that cyberbullying included sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone that causes embarrassment or humiliation. Sometimes, cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behavior, she noted.

Ahuja added that cyberbullying is unique in that it can be persistent, as digital devices are constantly on, and that this can make it difficult for children being cyberbullied to find relief. Because teachers and parents may not overhear or see it taking place, cyberbullying is harder to recognise.

"You have to earn the trust of your children," said Ahuja. "If you see changes in their behaviour - if they are not sleeping well, reluctant to go to school, or hiding their devices from you, ask them as calmly and as open-heartedly as possible. Cyberbullying involves a loss of dignity or control over a social situation, so involving your child in finding solutions helps him or her regain that. Respond thoughtfully to the situation, since reacting rashly can make the situation worse. Always take time to listen to them when they come to you for help." 

Ahuja recommends teaching children not to respond or retaliate to cyberbullying. "It only worsens the issue, and may lead to further triggering the perpetrator. Teach them that they have the power to control the situation by blocking the bully. Always save the evidence of the bullying for help in future situations."

While many experts continue to shed light on the negative implications that cyberbullying has on children and youth, they have also clarified on how awareness can be one of the biggest safeguards against it. A recent survey by Kaspersky, shed light on the challenges that parents today face while interacting in a digital space, and the role that they play in protecting their children. The campaign focused on different aspects of digital parenting including the sharing of photos, the discussions about children's digital life, cyberbullying and its consequences, and the usage of tracking tools such as geolocation.

According to the survey, the behaviour of parents can sometimes be risky: for instance, 49 per cent of them post photos and information about their child on social media, with 35 per cent of them posting stories from their child's life. The reasons to post such personal information vary: 59 per cent of parents said that they want to keep memories, while 53 per cent are proud of their children's achievements, and 35 per cent said that they want to show their relatives how their child develops and grows. However, other opinions include thinking that photos with children gain more likes and comments than the ones without them.

"Sometimes, the desire to gain social approval prevails and the parents take unjustified risks. However, it is crucial to understand that once published, the materials can fall into the wrong hands and bring unwanted consequences such as identity theft, cyberbullying, or just become potentially harmful digital footprints. What's more, it is necessary to ask children if they want certain information to be published on social media: 51 per cent of parents do not do this, but it is important and even compulsory," said Maher Yamout, senior security researcher at Kaspersky.

Officials have noted that the UAE is taking the lead in promoting digital wellbeing and developing a positive and safe digital world by being one of the first countries to

establish a council that supports parents, youth, and the society to interact safely and effectively with the digital environment. Launched recently, the Council for Digital Wellbeing provides a holistic mechanism for promoting positive digital communities in the UAE, supporting parents and families in addressing the challenges of the digital world, and leveraging the opportunities it offers. It also seeks to promote a safe and positive digital citizenship and encourage positive behaviour in the digital world through its four pillars: digital capabilities, digital conduct, relations and digital safety, and digital content.

The council also provides the UAE youth and children with the tools needed to navigate the digital world safely, as the Internet has become the first source of knowledge and information.


Rohma Sadaqat

I am a reporter and sub-editor on the Business desk at Khaleej Times. I mainly cover and write articles on the UAE's retail, hospitality, travel, and tourism sectors.Originally from Lahore, I have been living in the UAE for more than 20 years. I graduated with a BA in Mass Communication, with a concentration in Journalism, and a double minor in History and International Studies from the American University of Sharjah.If you see me out and about on assignment in Dubai, feel free to stop me, say hello, and we can chat about the latest kitten videos on YouTube.

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